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CNN Today

Gallup Poll Ranks Clinton as Below-Average President

Aired February 21, 2000 - 2:41 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, now we look at America's opinion of a few former presidents and our current president, Bill Clinton.

Gallup poll Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport joins us from Princeton, New Jersey -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Natalie, we know that Americans today say our greatest presidents were John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. But we wanted to look at where we'll be 20 years from now when we're looking, like, at Bill Clinton, because we know he's now as concerned about his legacy as anybody else. We thought we would look today on Presidents' Day to see how the public's coming in with Bill Clinton.

He's not in the top four in terms of greatest presidents. Not a great shock when we say, who's the worst presidents we've ever had? Its Nixon and then Bill Clinton. But actually Clinton's legacy is looking fairly good at this point. Let's look, track, through his whole term. These are our classic Gallup job approval ratings that we've tracked for Bill Clinton since his inauguration in January of 1993, and they've actually gone up over time.

The great paradox of the Clinton presidency, of course, is that his highest job approval ratings came in '98 in the middle of the impeachment. They were at 61 percent last year. Our latest rating was at 62 percent. The average for all president since FDR and Eisenhower is about 56 percent. When you average Clinton, he's about on track to be about where the average president's been. So this looks not so bad for Bill Clinton in terms of job approval rating. Of course, when you say, do you approve of his morals? the ratings are much lower.

But let's look at this. This is legacy. We asked Americans today this question on Presidents' Day: How do you think Clinton will go down in history? Back in '97 we asked it, before impeachment. We just got through asking it again. Not as much change as we might anticipate. His positive ratings about the same. Americans shifted some from saying he would go down as an average president, and now about 28 percent say he'll go down in history as one of our poor presidents. But really that's not as big a shift as you would expect for only the second president to be impeached in U.S. history.

Our assessment right now on Presidents' Day, Clinton's looking fairly good to go down in history with a reasonably good legacy.

Happy Presidents' Day to you. Back to you in Atlanta.

ALLEN: And to you, Frank Newport, thanks.

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